The Year I Lost My Mind certainly avoids current gay indie-film tropes, if not most cinematic tropes altogether, with its bizarre collection of idiosyncrasies.
On the surface, it’s a thriller about a troubled young man who dabbles in petty illegal activities, but its his particular tics and habits that amount to a tantalizing viewing experience, if for no other reason than to find out just what the hell is going on?
Tom is a pale, offbeat, lonely gay man in his early 20s, living at home with his mother and sister in Berlin. Our first introduction to him sets the tone: he dons a large horse mask, compelling his resigned mother to ask “Why do you enjoy having people be afraid of you?”
Her inquiry is apt. Things only get stranger from there as her moon-faced, taciturn son walks into stranger scenarios, often wearing a variety of more masks from his bountiful collection.
Tom soon breaks into a stranger’s apartment where the handsome tenant sleeps peacefully, unaware of the passive crime that hovers over him. Tom simply observes the unsuspecting young man, then leaves—making mental notes for some later transgression perhaps.
This leads to a low-grade stalking scenario, spread out over the course of the strange protagonist’s idle days, spying on his subject’s routine around town from a distance.
Through his increasingly disturbing habits, interests, and behavior, one gets the sense that Tom has not only been marginalized by mainstream society but by the gay subculture too, with his unconventional looks that preclude reciprocation when he’s witnessed making advances on other men.
Is this why he is acting out, morally and legally? And to what extent will it manifest?
A subplot unfolds, where Tom encounters a fellow masked man—larger, stranger, and more foreboding them him, at one of his haunts around town: the nearby woods where men cruise each other.
This stirs another question: is his doppelganger’s existence real or merely a figment of Tom’s demented imagination?
Tom revisits his previous subject’s apartment regularly, affirming his lascivious motives in the absent man’s empty bed. He skirts the calamity of being caught more than once, escaping through the glass doors of the patio. His subject begins to notice missing cookies, misplaced books—but he also has a cat, so the picture is hazy.
The inevitable occurs one night when Tom boldly admires the handsome man sleeping in the middle of the night, but he manages to retreat through the front door, buffered by the shock he’s cast over his newly lucid victim.
It’s through another chance that the victim puts two and two together, and he resolves the situation through his own hands—with unexpected results that are intentionally shocking by the filmmaker. Although compelling, it doesn’t feel quite believable enough to be effective.
With a fairly adroit buildup to this climax, it feels a bit of a cheat to only tumble into improbability. The subplot involving Tom’s frightening double is resolved in a more subdued manner, alleviating some of the discord. Nonetheless, the film is effective enough for everything that occurred before its finale—an interesting study in anomaly: its images, moods, and actions are sure to linger long after the screen fades to black.